With an educational journey at Macomb spanning more than 20 years, Media and Communication Arts (MACA) student Anna Wagner is the model example of a lifelong learner.
Wagner graduated with a master’s degree in education from the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in her native country, Poland, before coming to the United States. Eager to work, she discovered she would need to obtain state certifications on top of those she had previously been awarded. She decided to take a different approach.
“When I came here, I really had a chance to start over,” explains Wagner. “If I had to go to school again, I wanted to follow my true passion.”
What drove Wagner to further her studies was the artistic pursuits; more specifically, graphic design. She always had a creative flair, but never had the opportunity to acquire training in the arts. In 1998, she enrolled in Macomb’s Graphic and Communication Arts Program (now MACA). Thus began her two decades-long relationship with the college and its faculty.
“In all the years I studied at Macomb, I’ve never had a teacher who didn’t care about how well the students do,” relates Wagner. “They go out of their way to help you. They stay after hours. They come on the weekend. They put [up] their own time and effort to make sure that you succeed.”
In 2001, Wagner graduated summa cum laude with an Associate of Applied Science degree from Macomb. Shortly thereafter, she paused her career to stay home and care for her newborn daughter. She returned to the workforce in 2005, accepting an internship with a video production company that worked closely with Comcast. What was supposed to be a 10-week stint turned into 11 months of employment, abruptly ending when the telecommunications giant stopped outsourcing creative work and began producing their commercials in house. That’s when she decided it would be a good idea to come back to Macomb and freshen up her abilities.
“People with broader and more current abilities can replace you, and I don’t want to be replaced,” notes Wagner. “So, I have to stay on top, keep improving. And this school gives me just the right opportunity to do that at a reasonable cost.”
Through the recommendation of professors Brian Sauriol and Michael Crumb, Wagner was hired for a position at General Motors in 2008. Her career has since blossomed. She now works as a User Interface Designer and is extensively involved in the development of vehicle infotainment systems. Through the use of touchscreens, voice activated functions and remote connections, users can control their radios, make and receive calls and safely navigate to their destinations.
“It’s the psychology of the human – machine interaction that really draws me into it,” adds Wagner. “If people find their car communication system easy to use without reading [a] manual, that’s a good design. And if it also looks appealing, it makes it a great design.”
It has been a rewarding experience for Wagner, who believes “half of the credit” for her unique skillset belongs to Macomb, to which she returned in 2007 and, more recently, in 2018 to grow her web design capabilities and ensure her relevance in the workplace. “I owe this constant hunger for more knowledge and skills to the great programs and dedicated faculty at Macomb who encouraged, nurtured and helped me develop my competence and passion for art and design.”
What does the future hold for Wagner, who recently completed her final semester studying Interactive Web Design? While she may take another class here and there to stay current, she also wouldn’t be opposed to approaching the head of the classroom and teaching at some point. The idea isn’t so far-fetched for Wagner, who has developed a unique bond with Macomb’s MACA faculty. “Everybody knows me. I’ve been here for so long. I can have a really good conversation with the teachers, and input what I know from work when they want to improve existing programs or create new classes,” says Wagner. “It’s a very specific relationship that I have with this school. It’s not just what I take, but also what I give back.”